Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Destination: Launch Lab at the Museum of Life and Science

Posted June 13, 2013

My older daughter has made countless paper airplanes. She folds and refolds, tries new designs, tests different papers. Her younger sister is right there with her, crumpling up paper in her own way to see how it flies. They have spent hours doing this.

So it was no surprise that they were disappointed when we had to leave the new Launch Lab exhibit at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham. The exhibit opens to the public on Saturday, but we got a preview on Thursday.

My girls tried out the new hover tables and rocket launchers. Little did they know that a new paper airplane area, complete with mechanical launcher, was yet to be set up. We might still be there if that piece had been ready for us to try out.

Launch Lab adds a dozen new interactive pieces to the museum's already popular indoor Aerospace gallery, where you also can see a lunar lander, command nodule and rocket engine, among other displays. The gallery has been a centerpiece for the museum's indoor exhibits. The building actually was built around the lunar lander replica.

And while parents and grandparents might get nostalgic about the space equipment, the museum recognizes that young children today don't have those same memories. Launch Lab at the Museum of Life and Science Destination: Launch Lab at the Museum of Life and Science

"Maybe young kids need another entry point into aerospace," said Elizabeth Fleming, an exhibit development manager who was part of the team to work on the new exhibit.

Launch Lab provides another way for kids to get excited about aerospace, physics, engineering and other sciences. Here you'll find hover tables and wind tubes, which use fans to move objects around. Kids can design their own flying objects in a special design area and then see them shoot straight up into the air, spin or just drift.

The rocket launch station lets kids design their own rockets and launch them using compressed air launchers. Kids can decide how much compressed air they'll use to shoot their rockets. And the mechanical airplane launcher lets kids explore how different folding techniques affect a paper airplane's lift.

The exhibit is open ended. Kids come up with their own designs and then test them out at the stations. A museum staffer will be on hand to guide activities, offer suggestions, answer questions and ask them.

"If what you're making isn't working, you can try, try again," Fleming said.

Another change ... the museum is adding some pretend buttons and screens to the mission control piece, adding to the pretend play opportunities there.

The new exhibits offer some great new hands-on activities to the indoor exhibits at this museum. And, with temperatures soaring into the 90s on Thursday and the rest of the summer, they are a welcome addition.

Watch my video interview with Fleming to learn more about the exhibit and the see hover tables and rocket launchers.

The exhibit opens Saturday. It's free with admission to the museum, which is $10 for kids ages 3 to 12 and $14 for adults.

Go Ask Mom features places to take kids every Friday. For more ideas, check our posts on parks and playgrounds and Triangle family destinations.


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